Sunday, September 10, 2006

Saturday, 9th September – Killarney

Today we explored the Dingle Peninsula, the most westerly point of Ireland, and in fact Europe. It was a fascinating drive, first to Inch Strand (where scenes from the film Ryan’s daughter were filmed – for those of you old enough to remember), and then along the coast to a town called Dingle (An Daingean in Irish), a pretty fishing village with a sheltered harbour, and rows of brightly painted shops & cottages.

The whole area is ridiculously beautiful – picture postcard scenery around every bend. Dramatic coastlines, rolling green hills with their patchwork of hedgerows and stone fences, white-washed cottages - and lots of sheep.

It is also littered with important archaeological sights from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages. We visited an Iron age Fort, perched dramatically on the edge of a cliff, a 1300-year old stone church, so-called “beehive huts” – collections of circular stone cottages surrounded by protective stone walls, dating from the early Christian period, a 12th century Irish Romanesque church built by the English to try to replace the monastic settlements.

The other interesting aspect of the Dingle Peninsula is that it is Gaeltacht – an area which is primarily (and somewhat militantly) Gaelic speaking. There is a strong movement to preserve the native language, and most signs are written in Gaelic. We visited a small museum dedicated to preserving and explaining the importance and the history of the language.

When we got back to Killarney in the evening we did an Irish pub crawl to hear some traditional music. Saturday night is not a good night for live music apparently, as it seems most pubs have DJs that night, trying to appeal to the young people (of which there were lots on the streets). We walked for several blocks – the streets were full of people out for a good time, and there were many restaurants and pubs, some very classy. Eventually we found one pub with a group of old guys (and one girl) playing accordions and fiddles around a table – very authentic; and another place had a guitarist and singer with a very nice voice doing a mixture of modern pop and Irish folk. There is no smoking in any pub in Ireland, which makes for a much more pleasant atmosphere – and also makes pubs easy to spot from a distance, by the groups of smokers standing outside.

But the highlight of the day was frequent sms messages from Rob with progress scores on the Swans game (Qualifying Final against West Coast) which the Swans won by 1 point! Go Swannies!!